Chennai Journal
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Koh Samui
I'm in Bangkok and on the way to Koh Samui, an island off the coast of Thailand. Plan to get in some snorkeling and relaxation. I'll post later in the week.

Sunday, April 22, 2007
Roberta and I went to Kanchipuram, which is nearby Chennai and known as a temple town as well as the center for silk fabric making. We didn't get to the silk making places because it started to rain and we had to get back to Chennai for the evening. But we visited a fabulous 7th century temple called Kailasanatha. The temple is mostly in honor of the Hindu god Siva and Parvati (his wife) and there are numerous stone wall carvings in their images. It is one of the few temples that allows non-Hindus into the inner sanctum.

Some of the interior painting, which was covered over and then laboriously removed, remains, and gives an indication of how stunning the temple must have been in its heyday.

After we went to temple, we visited a place called the Sankara Mutt, which is where Sankaracharya (seer) of Kanchi presides. Roberta was very interested in this because right after she arrived, she had a laser procedure done on her eyes at Sankara Nethralaya, a world famous eye hospital.

According to the story, S.S. Badrinath, an opthamologist who had been educated and worked in the U.S. but had returned to Chennai, was asked to operate on the Sankaracharya, a holy man residing in Kanchi. Religious strictures prevented the Sankaracharya from traveling to Chennai--he could only walk or be carried-- so the physician had to operate and treat him in Kanchi. This interaction resulted in the founding of Sankara Nethralaya. Badrinath, privately frustrated by conditions in Chennai, was on the verge of returning to the U.S. But his exposure to the holy man led him on a very different path---to bring his knowledge of state- of- the -art eye treatment back to India--and to serve the poor. Today, Sankara Nethralaya is not only a premier institute, but fully 40% of its patients are non-paying.

Sunday, April 15, 2007
Back in Chennai
Thank you, readers, for your patience. I returned to Chennai early Monday morning after a week in Detroit, where it was snowing when I left. Back in Chennai, the hot season seems to have arrived and the only pleasant time of day is in the early morning hours. From here it will only get hotter. This will be my last summer in Chennai, so having been through it twice before I will sweat it out.

We had two lovely seders, one with our cousins and the other with friends, and I also got to see Dad every day. He has good days and not-so-good days, but in general is doing okay. He has a walker on wheels that he enjoys very much. During my visit baseball season started, and I took him down to the activity room to watch the Tiger's opening day. Although it was something he would have loved a few years ago, honestly I don't know how much of it he followed. When I left, he was nodding off.

Marty has moved into a neat little house in Huntington Woods, a suburb of Detroit. It is about a half hour walk from our synagogue, which I did the day after I arrived despite the cold weather. The house is smaller than our one in Beverly Hills, but all we need. Given the way the real estate market in Detroit is tanking these days (the publicity on Chrysler being sold was hot news while I was there), we decided to rent instead of buy. This was a house refurbished on spec, but the owner wound up renting instead of selling. Everything was brand new, including the kitchen, so we were able to use it as is for Passover rather than going through the laborious process of kashering everything. Given that I haven't really cooked for over two years, I was relieved that my chicken soup with matzo balls still came out well!

Roberta decided while I was in the U.S. that she would stay until the first weekend in May. That was good news. Today we went to a local art gallery and next weekend we are going to have a Shabbat dinner party and then try to go to Kancheepuram.

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